Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9


France 2010
Directed by
Thomas Balmes
79 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Synopsis: A look at one year in the life of four babies from around the world, from Mongolia to Namibia to San Francisco to Tokyo.

Babies has been a considerable critical and box office success overseas although, bar purely maternal indulgence, its difficult to see why. The film opens with one of its four subjects, Namibian baby, Ponijao, sitting with a slightly older friend playing. When Ponijao takes a beaten-up plastic bottle belonging to the other child, a fight breaks our and Ponijao ends up in tears. It’s a fabulous scene, encapsulating the power plays and emotions underpinning everyday human interaction and the processes of socialization that overlay them. It is understandably a scene also used in the film’s theatrical trailer. But this is really the highpoint of Thomas Balmès’ documentary.

From there we go back six months to the birth of the four babies and then follow their progress until they are toddlers. The film cuts back and forth between Bayar, born into the nomadic goatherding society of Mongolia, Hattie, a child of white middle-class America, Mari and her ultra-urbanized home in Tokyo, and Ponijao, whose home is Namibia's dusty savannah. There is no commentary or interview and we simply follow each child as they move through certain stages of development or share a common activity. Certainly this reminds us of the communality of mankind but unless you are particularly interested in babies, the main points of interest are the cultural differences. In a broad sense this ranges from the seemingly isolated Hattie, apartment-bound and only relating to children in organized situations and Ponijao who crawls around in the dirt accompanied by his siblings, friends and dogs whilst his unconcerned mother sits around endlessly chatting.

Hygenically hair-raising as Ponijao’s life is, and completely bereft of toys, books or even clothes, rather spookily, he almost seems to have the more enviable life as his mother has a natural, spontaneous vitality that is not shared by Hattie’s anxious-looking, bookish mum. One doesn’t need 79 minutes to appreciate these cultural implications, however, and such broad inferences aside, Babies is decidedly a Mother’s Day indulgence.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst